This is Where I Leave You: Film Review

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I wanted to see this because it has a terrific cast and looked hilarious. It is not ground-breaking or original but very enjoyable and I liked getting to know this complex web of characters.

The film opens with Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) who lives his ‘perfect’ life until he discovers his wife has been having an affair with his boss. His world is turned upside down and it just gets worse when he discovers his father has died. Judd heads back to his hometown for the funeral and his mother Hilary (Jane Fonda) forces all four siblings – Paul (Corey Stoll), Wendy (Tina Fey) and Phillip (Adam Driver) – to stay in their childhood home for a week per their father’s “dying wishes”.

Clearly this family has not been close in a long time and have made no effort to see each other for whatever reason. This brings up resentments and long-forgotten arguments, embarrassing stories and frank truths. This film perfectly encapsulates the family dynamic and throws in a few laughs for good measure.

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This is not a comedy in the broadest sense and I’m glad because none of the jokes seem too forced (except the mum’s-got-fake-boobs gag and Fonda’s final reveal) and all seem to work because of how honest and real they are in that family situation. I really liked Driver’s character because he is immature and the eternal baby of the family desperately trying to prove he can be responsible – by bringing along a much older woman (Connie Britton) as his fiancée. Judd and Wendy hide their marriage troubles and Paul has resentments because he stayed in the hometown to raise the business. They all have their own issues and it is great to see them all thrown into the mix.

The issue here is that sometimes I actually prefer the tender, heartfelt moments and although the film tries to balance the two, I don’t think it always works. For example, Timothy Olyphant is totally wasted here as Wendy’s ex-boyfriend who has brain damage following an accident. I would love to know more of his story but it wouldn’t work tonally and the film is already way too long, so I wish he wasn’t in there at all. At times, I feel the film is trying to juggle too many balls, especially with some many characters each having their own storyline (sometimes even multiple ones).

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I’m a massive fan of Rose Byrne but her storyline felt out of place because it didn’t feel as real as everything else. It seemed forced so Judd could ‘find himself’ and the same could be said for Hilary’s big revelation, which was so unexpected, I was like ‘whaaaaat?’  It didn’t make much sense. Also the final shot of the film is incredibly predictable.

Overall, this is very likeable film with some brilliant lines and clever scenes (one of my favourites is of the boys getting high) and witty dialogue in places. It features some of my favourite comedy stars  – Bateman, Fey and Driver – and tries to balance comedy and drama (which sometimes work, sometimes doesn’t) but it is definitely enjoyable.

 

Released Friday 

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